Cloverfield Movie Review
J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves delivered a fantastic catastrophe-flick that saw the destruction of New York by an unspecified being.
Directors: Matt Reeves
Cast: Mike Stahl-David, T.J. Miller, Jessica Lucas, Odette Annable, Lizzy Caplan, Mike Vogel, Billy Brown & Ben Feldman.
Run Time: 85 min.
US Release: 18 January 2008
UK Release: 31 January 2008
German Release: 01 February 2008
Cloverfield was my personal surprise hit of 2008 and is my second favourite found footage film right after End of Watch, combining the previous mentioned genre with the monster movie category. It is also responsible for reviving the found footage format, which slowly died out after the 1999 horror-shocker The Blair Witch Project. J.J. Abrams came up with the idea for Cloverfield while promoting Mission: Impossible III in Japan, thinking that the US film industry is in dire need of an own movie monster. Paramount Pictures green-lit the project in secret and the trailer released, for this action-mystery, was one of the best marketing strategies I have seen for a movie, barely revealing anything about the film but still creating buzz.
--- BE AWARE, THIS IS A SPOILER REVIEW!! ---
Robert Hawkins (Stahl-David) is about to move to Japan and accept a position as vice-president of a company. His Brother Jason (Vogel) and “sister-in-law” Lilly (Lucas) plan a secret good-bye party for him and make Hud (Miller) film the whole thing, with Rob’s camera. We are then told by Robert himself that the tape in the camera contained precious memories of his first date with his long-term secret crush Beth (Annable), who left the party enraged. An earthquake and an explosion suddenly interrupt the party. The people run in panic out onto the streets and it is revealed that a giant monster is attacking Manhattan. Rob calls Beth and shortly after decides to go and save her.
Monster films might not strike as being very innovative in Hollywood; there are several sequels and versions of King Kong and of course the American remake of Godzilla but what Cloverfield achieved, by crossing the monster genre with the found footage category was genius! It not only revamped both genres but also gives this small budget production a completely new sensation. The home-video-type footage gives the audience the feeling of watching something extremely personal and also makes the plot seem much more realistic.
This is a love story at its core, wrapped in elements of action, mystery, and horror. What keeps surprising me is the effective scares it uses in some of the scenes, which makes it more frightening than other horror films nowadays. It is left unexplained where the Cloverfield monster comes from and the scariest creature is not the giant Godzilla-like thing, but the little parasitic monsters that fall off its host. Having the main character about to move to Japan, is a nice nod towards Godzilla and the severed head of the Statue of Liberty is inspired by the movie poster of the 1981 action-flick Escape from New York that had a very provocative and terrifying effect.
Like any other film, this one isn’t perfect but I only had a couple of issues with the story. For one, why do the others follow Rob to save Beth if they could have moved to safety earlier on? Then there is the issue of the camcorder battery, which doesn’t seem to run out. Finally, although Hud gives a reason for documenting the destruction of Manhattan, there is no cause to film his friends being in danger, or suffering emotionally!
The movie drops the ball when it comes to character development, as all characters except for the main protagonist, fall flat and aren't fleshed-out enough. Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) is the hero in this story, trying to save the life of his secret love Beth, amidst the destruction of Manhattan by a 60-ish meter monster. It is revealed that due to Rob accepting a job in Japan, he and Beth had a fallout previously about a possible future relationship.
Hudson ‘Hud’ Platt, played by T. J. Miller, is possibly the blandest and generally idiotic character of the group. The only reason for his creation is the fact that he is the best option to hold the camera, while also being a disposable persona at that. What makes him even more unlikeable is the fact that he doesn’t stop filming, even when it concerns his friends’ safety.
Matt Reeves and Michael Bonvillain did a great cinematographic job. The found footage style in which this low-budget blockbuster is filmed, gives the movie a personal and realistic touch; as if the audience were stuck in that horrific situation together with the protagonists. Reeves made the right decision by not showing the full monster until the end, the movie is like a build-up to the big horrific reveal, and while this might be a flaw in other movies, it does work perfectly here. The special effects are still fantastic to look at the monsters and the destruction of Manhattan look incredibly realistic, which might have been enhanced by the shaky cam.
Verdict: Cloverfield is one of my favourite films of 2008 and I keep being floored by its sheer intensity. It had a perfect marketing campaign and delivers a simple but effective story that shows how a group of people try to survive a monster invasion in New York. Filming it as a found footage type movie, was the best decision by the production team, because it not only gives the movie a fresh note but also single-handedly revamped two genres. I can watch this movie over-and-over again without being bored by it because there is always something new to discover. I will give Cloverfield an 8.5 out of 10. What did you think of Cloverfield? Were you one of the people experiencing motion sickness while watching? Leave a comment below and let me know. My review for 10 Cloverfield Lane, the unofficial sequel, will be uploaded this Saturday so keep your eyes open if interested. Thank you very much for reading and as always, if you found this review helpful share it and subscribe!